U.K. Brexit Negotiator to Set Out Goals After French Warning
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David Frost, the U.K.’s chief Brexit negotiator, will set out Britain’s goals for talks over its future relationship with the European Union in a speech in Brussels on Monday as the two sides prepare to thrash out an agreement before the end of the year.
Amid warnings from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of a fierce clash over future trade terms, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said the U.K. isn’t seeking special treatment, but wants a deal similar to those agreed by the EU with other countries.
After an analysis of the demands in the bloc’s draft negotiation mandate, Johnson’s team said it’s unreasonable the U.K. is currently being offered more stringent terms on state aid, tax and standards than the EU has agreed in deals with Korea, Japan and Canada.
In those three cases, the EU lifted almost all tariffs, but didn’t force any of them to abide by its state-aid regulations or to follow any future changes to its rule-book. France is pushing strongly for the EU to make the latter demand, known as dynamic alignment, part of any deal with its neighbor.
“We are going to rip each other apart,” Le Drian said at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday. “But that is part of negotiations, everyone will defend their own interests.”
Le Drian said that while he wants the talks completed as soon as possible, there are “some serious issues,” including fishing, where the two sides are at odds.
Environment Secretary George Eustice, whose remit covers fishing, said on Monday that while Le Drian had used “colorful language,” he’s confident the U.K. can strike a deal with the EU.
“We’re very clear that we will choose autonomy over regulatory alignment, that we won’t be in the single market, that we won’t be in the customs union,” Eustice told Sky News. “There’s clarity about our objectives now, clarity about the type of relationship we want and there’s no reason at all why we can’t put together a sensible agreement with the EU.”
Eustice also said that the U.K. is “striving” to get a partnership agreement on fishing in place by July, “But if it’s not in place, we will be an independent coastal state negotiating in the normal way, just like Norway does at the end of the year.”
The U.K.’s negotiating “Task Force,” led by Frost, held meetings last week to finalize its position and is preparing to argue that Britain already has higher standards than the EU on workers’ rights, environmental protection and subsidies, so the alignment demanded by the bloc doesn’t make sense, the prime minister’s office said.
Frost’s lecture will be the first of a series of public interventions on the U.K.’s position because he sees secrecy as a key factor in Theresa May’s failure to reach an acceptable agreement with Brussels, the Sunday Times reported, without saying where it got the information.
After leaving the EU on Jan. 31, Britain entered an 11-month transition period, during which time the country will still be subject to the bloc’s rules, even if it has no say in setting them. Johnson has until the end of this year to reach a comprehensive trade agreement with the bloc. If he fails, Britain will crash out and default to trading on World Trade Organization rules.
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